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The paper describes the design and implementation of the Controller-Hardware in the Loop (C-HIL) test platform for the pre-certification of the grid code compliance for Solar Inverters. The results obtained from C-HIL tests are successfully validated using setups both connected to a Digital Real Time Simulator (DRTS) running a model of the converter power stage. The results show that the C-HIL approach can provide significant benefits compared traditional full-scale laboratory testing, allows faster design iterations and reduces the need for cost-intensive power equipment. In addition, complex communication and interoperability requirements can be evaluated individually based on site-specific characteristics prior to the installation of the generator.
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Pre-Certification of Grid Code Compliance
for Solar Inverters with an Automated
Controller-Hardware-in-the-Loop Test Environment
Roland Bründlinger, Johannes Stöckl,
Zoran Miletic, Ron Ablinger,
Fabian Leimgruber
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
Vienna, Austria
roland.bruendlinger@ait.ac.at
Jay Johnson
Sandia National Laboratories,
Albuquerque, NM, USA
Jane Shi
EPRI Electric Power Research Institute
Knoxville, TN, USA
AbstractThe paper describes the design and implementation
of the Controller-Hardware in the Loop (C-HIL) test platform
for the pre-certification of the grid code compliance for Solar
Inverters. The results obtained from C-HIL tests are
successfully validated using setups both connected to a Digital
Real Time Simulator (DRTS) running a model of the converter
power stage. The results show that the C-HIL approach can
provide significant benefits compared traditional full-scale
laboratory testing, allows faster design iterations and reduces
the need for cost-intensive power equipment. In addition,
complex communication and interoperability requirements can
be evaluated individually based on site-specific characteristics
prior to the installation of the generator.
Keywords- Compliance Testing, Inverters, Grid Codes,
Hardware-In-The-Loop;
I. INTRODUCTION
Following the massive increase of the share of distributed
energy resources (DER), it has become common consensus
that DER need to be fully integrated into system operation to
maintain stability and reliability [1]. Accordingly, recent
revisions of European as well as International Grid Codes
require single generators as well as complete plants to provide
a broad range of functions to support the local distribution
grid as well as the overall power system [2]. These
requirements are complemented with specifications for the
robustness of the generators against disturbances, as well as
for communication and controllability.
The complexity of the requirements, rapid changes and
tight application deadlines set in the documents have led to
increased pressure on manufacturers of generating equipment
such as PV converters. To qualify for the application,
interoperability and performance of the product must be
validated to a wide range of different regional requirements
(such as e.g. [3], [4], [5]), which are often set on a case-by-
case during the planning process.
Traditional lab-based testing methods defined in current
certification procedures are challenged by the increasing
number and combinations of individual tests, limited
availability of power equipment in the laboratories and most
importantly time and cost constraints.
In many cases, these constraints limit testing of advanced
grid support functions (AGF) of grid connected power
converters to individual functions only. Complex
interoperability tests assessing the possible interaction
between multiple AGFs which would allow to identify
potential incompatibility issues prior to the deployment of
technologies in the field are therefore typically not included
in todays’ certification requirements.
II. DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE C-HIL
PRE-CERTIFICATION TEST PLATFORM
A. Overview
To overcome these constraints and expand test coverage,
C-HIL has been identified as promising approach and
complement to traditional full-scale laboratory testing. To
allow for fully automated tests of the grid compliance and
grid support functions of generators, a C-HIL “Pre-
certification” test platform has been developed by AIT. At the
moment, it implements the full set of test items defined in
widely used test specifications in Europe as VDE 0124-100
[6] and FGW TR3 [7]. In the future, additional test
specifications will be implemented, such as the upcoming
EN 50549-10, UL1741SA [8] etc.
The platform consists of a software automating the test
procedures ("Pre-Cert Toolbox"), the equipment under test in
form of the converter controller hardware connected to a
digital real-time simulation system (DRTS) and a simulation
model of the power stage, grid and DC sources as well as
additional test equipment (e.g. RLC resonance circuits).
Using the Pre-Cert Toolbox, grid code compliance as
well as interoperability and controllability can be validated in
the same way as using traditional laboratory tests. The
individual test items are implemented, executed, analysed and
reported in the exact way as defined in the test specifications.
B. Traditional laboratory vs. C-HIL test setup
In the traditional laboratory setup used for testing solar
inverters (see Figure 1. ), the EUT is operated connected to
controllable DC and AC sources, which emulate the real static
and dynamic characteristics of the PV array (DC) and the grid
(AC). For specific tests, such as e.g. islanding or FRT tests,
additional equipment is inserted between the EUT and the
grid. Through proprietary communications and user
interfaces, the individual test devices are controlled according
to the test specifications. Through a multi-channel DAQ
system, the relevant electrical (voltages, currents) and non-
electrical signals (e.g. temperatures, readouts and set values
of the EUT) are measured, recorded and processed.
To operate the EUT up to its limits, each of the main
components of this setup is required to be able to provide the
necessary power, voltage and current capabilities, including
overload and transients.
Figure 1. Traditional lab setup for testing solar inverters
Introducing the C-HIL approach [11], all the power
equipment, including sources and the power stage of the EUT
is transferred to a simulation model running on a (DRTS)
platform (Figure 2. ). Through analogue and digital inputs and
outputs the controller hardware of the inverter under test is
connected to the real-time simulation system.
Figure 2. Equivalent C-HIL test setup for testing solar inverters
The quality of the simulation is mainly determined by the
time resolution of the model and the accurate representation
of electrical components (e.g. IGBT switches, magnetics,
loads etc.). Each of these aspects needs to be considered to
ensure realistic behaviour and accurate results from C-HIL
testing. To establish standard requirements for using real, a
dedicated Task Force on Real-Time Simulation of Power
and Energy Systemshas been established under the IEEE
Power and Energy Society [9]. According to their
guidance [4], for accurate simulation of power electronics,
time steps in the single µs range are required.
C. Architecture of the C-HIL Pre-Certification Toolbox
While the introduction of the C-HIL approach to testing
of solar inverters is a major step to reduce infrastructure
needs, additional tools are still required to enable automated
testing, integrating the control of the EUT and subsequent
processing of the data acquired during the test sequence.
For this purpose, the C-HIL Pre-Certification Toolbox is
designed to act as a “harness”, linking the different parts of
the test setup together as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Concept and architecture of the C-HIL Pre-Certification
Toolbox
Through this concept, it provides a single interface to the
user and integrates all communications to the different
components, including the EUT controller under test (usually
communicating via proprietary protocols), the DRTS running
the model. Via device specific “Plugins”, it can be adapted to
the actual EUT and DRTS used.
The procedures coming from the test standards as well as
the specifications and characteristics of the EUT are
described using a flow-chart representation shown in Figure
4. This allows the user to modify or extend the standard test
procedures according to the actual needs. Test procedures
from other standards can be easily implemented by adding
them to the test framework.
Figure 4. Flow chart defining the test sequence of a single test item
(example case Active Power Setpoint control according to FGW TR3)
III. REFERENCE TEST SETUP CONFIGURATION
A. C-HIL Test Setup
For the development and validation, a reference test setup
([11], [12]) consisting of a DRTS (Typhoon HIL 602),
connected to the Control Board of AIT’s Smart Grid
Converter (SGC) was used. The DRTS is capable to run the
model of the inverter power stage (including switching
elements, DC link, filters etc.), grid and PV simulators and
additional devices (Figure 5. ) at a time-step of 1 µs, sufficient
to guarantee realistic behaviour.
All voltages and currents in the real-time model are made
through measurement blocks which are then assigned to
analogue outputs on the HIL. PWM signals and additional
control signals from the SGC Control Board are fed back to
the simulation through digital ports.
Figure 5. Model of the inverter under test (AIT SGC) implemented on
the DRTS (Typhoon HIL)
The SGC control board connected to the HIL system is
controlled via a dedicated protocol server for high level
functions. For the tests SunSpec based communications are
being used to test and validate advanced grid support
functions.
The complete hardware setup is presented in Figure 6. It
consists of the AIT SGC control-board (red frame), an
interface-board (yellow frame) required to condition the
proprietary analogue and digital inputs and outputs of the
SGC to the standard interfaces of the DRTS/HIL (white
frame). The high-level communications processor is shown
on the right-hand side (blue frame).
Figure 6. View of the SGC control board (red) connected to the DRTS
(Typhoon HIL 602, blue) via an application specific interface board
(yellow)
The AIT SGC operates as grid-connected PV inverter and
is capable to provide the advanced grid support capabilities
required by the latest grid-connection codes [3], including:
- Full 4-quadrant P and Q control
- Volt-Var Q(U), Volt-Watt P(U), Frequency-Watt
P(f) control
- Multi-Stage voltage and frequency protection
- Fault Ride Through (OVRT, UVRT)
- Fast reactive current injection
- Multi-mode anti-islanding
All modes and settings are accessible to the user through
dedicated communications interfaces (Serial, Modbus TCP
Sunspec, IEC 61850).
B. Full-scale laboratory test setup
In the laboratory the full-scale AIT Smart Grid Converter
was used as the equivalent setup. The base SGC module is a
34.5 kVA, 3-phase 4 wire DC to AC converter based on
neutral-point-clamped (NPC-2) topology with IGBT
switches. The SGC can be operated in both, PV and battery
mode according to the available DC source. In battery mode,
the SGC offers full four-quadrant operation up to its nominal
power capacity.
The SGC hardware is presented in Figure 7. indicating the
different blocks:
- DC-Link capacitors (yellow frame)
- IGBT gate driver boards (light green frame) with
NPC2 type modules mounted underneath.
- Control board (red frame) is mounted in the centre.
DC input and AC input are on the lower left (white
frame) and the lower right (green frame) corners,
respectively.
Figure 7. View of the full-scale SGC module (34.5 kVA DC-AC
converter) showing DC link (yellow), IGBT power boards (light green),
control board (red), DC input (white) and AC input boards (green).
The control board hardware, firmware as well as the
parameter setup was identical as for the C-HIL setup
described above. The use of identical control hard- and
firmware is the key feature for the validation of the C-HIL
pre-certification concept, as the C-HIL tests should reproduce
the behaviour of the converter controls as close as possible.
For laboratory testing, the SGC was connected to AIT’s
SmartEST inverter test stand, which represents the traditional
lab test setup as shown in Figure 1. On the AC side, a digital
power amplifier system is used as grid simulator, on the DC
side, a programmable linear DC source with PV simulation
capability was used. Communications to the EUT were
established in a similar manner as for the C-HIL test setup.
IV. USE CASES AND EXPERIMENTAL TEST RESULTS
A. Overview and selection of use cases
For the validation of the C-HIL test setup with the full-
scale lab setup, the following use cases respectively functions
were selected:
- Immediate control functions: Set points which are
directly provided by the user and immediately executed
by the converter such as active power setpoint
control/curtailment, reactive power setpoint control.
- Autonomous control functions, based on a X-Y curve
programmed into the converter controller: e.g.
Frequency-Watt and Volt-Watt functions [9]
- Response to grid disturbances and transient events, such
as Under Voltage Ride Through.
For each of the use-cases above, the results derived from
C-HIL testing are validated with the results from full-scale
laboratory tests. In this paper, only a summary is provided,
the full details are presented in [12]
B. Results
1) Immediate control functions
The immediate control functions, specifically the active
power setpoint control test has been validated based on the
test procedure defined in FGW TR3 [7]. According to the test
specification, the active power setpoint (limitation) is ramped
from 100% to 0% of the nominal power in steps of 10% Pn.
The purpose of the test is to verify the accuracy of the active
power setpoint control function.
The comparison of the measured response from the
laboratory test and the C-HIL test are shown in Figure 8. It
can be seen that there is a close match of the C-HIL and the
laboratory tests for all test conditions. The maximum
deviation of the active power between C-HIL and lab tests
was in the range of 1%, resulting from the accuracy of the
internal and external measurement. This is sufficient to
qualify the results for pre-certification use.
The deviation of the actual power from the setpoint at the
100% Pn condition (resulting from a limitation of the DC
source in the laboratory) could also be appropriately
reproduced by the C-HIL test.
Figure 8. Comparison of the results from lab and C-HIL testing for active
power setpoint control
2) Autonomous control functions
For the autonomous control use case, Frequency-Watt
P(f) and Volt-Watt P(U) were validated. In both cases, a
defined curve was sent to the converter control.
The P(f) test was performed using a procedure defined in
FGW TR3 [7]. There the frequency is increased from 50.0 Hz
up to 51.5 Hz to measure the reduction of the active power
with increasing frequency. The complete sequence is
repeated for two active power levels (100% Pn and 50% Pn).
Figure 9. presents the comparison of the measured
response from C-HIL and laboratory testing.
Figure 9. Comparison of the results from lab and C-HIL testing for
autonomous control functions Frequency-Watt P(f)
The C-HIL test results for the P(f) closely match the
laboratory test. The typical deviations observed were in the
range of 1% to 2% Pn which is sufficient to qualify the results
for pre-certification use.
Similar to the P(f) tests, also the P(U) function was
validated, as shown in Figure 10. The settings for the P(U)
function were derived from the current requirement in the
Austrian grid code (TOR D4 [14]).
The limitation of the active power is initiated once the grid
voltage exceeds 110% Un and reaches 0% at a grid voltage of
112%. Currently, there is no test procedure defined in the
respective grid code. Instead an own procedure was used to
validate the function.
Figure 10. Comparison of the results from lab and C-HIL testing for
autonomous control functions Volt-Watt P(U)
Comparing the measurements for the C-HIL and lab tests,
slight deviations in the range of ±1% of the nominal voltage
can be seen, as well as a hysteresis on the lab measurements.
The latter is a result of the different averaging of the power
measurements by the power meter used in the lab.
3) Transient response test
To validate the transient response use case, an Under-
Voltage Ride Through Test (UVRT) as defined in FGW TR3
[7] was performed. This test subjects the converter to a
sudden voltage drop to characterise its behaviour and
measure the resulting injection of reactive current (“dynamic
grid support” function).
In both setups, the converter controller was programmed
to provide the required reactive current Ib as a function of the
drop of the grid voltage defined as per [5].
The comparison of the measured voltages and currents for
the laboratory and C-HIL tests is shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11. Comparison of the results from lab and C-HIL testing for a
transient UVRT test
For the current response, minor deviations between the C-
HIL and lab tests can be observed at the start of the voltage
dip. These can be attributed to the differences in the transient
characteristics of the grid impedances used for the test as well
as well as phase shifts at the initiation of the dip. In addition,
differences in the transient characteristics of the simulated
hardware in the C-HIL setup vs. the actual real converter unit
may influence the results. After a stabilisation period of about
2 periods, current deviations are within a few percent of the
nominal current.
For pre-certification, the minor deviations during the
transient period after initiation of the voltage dip can be
accepted as long as the time response of the reactive
component of the current after a transient period of 50 ms is
not influenced (PASS/FAIL criterion). However, to ensure
the consistency, it is necessary to properly model also
parasitic elements which may be present in the real power
hardware of the converter under test.
V. CONCLUSION
The C-HIL based testing approach provides a major
advance in terms of reduced time and testing infrastructure
needs, reproducibility of the test results and test coverage.
The C-HIL pre-certification toolbox developed by AIT
provides a complete implementation of widely-used test
procedures in Europe and allows fully automated testing of
the basic characteristics and capabilities, grid support and
protective functions of grid-connected converters. Through a
single user interface, automated data analysis and reporting
features the complete design verification testing phase can be
optimised, avoiding the inherent risks of laboratory testing on
early prototypes.
The comparison of the results from C-HIL based testing
with those obtained from traditional laboratory testing for
different grid support functions and time domains highlights
the suitability of the C-HIL approach as alternative up to the
final pre-certification phase. To ensure an appropriate
representation of the real unit in the C-HIL environment it is
necessary to fully understand the behaviour of the individual
components of the converter’s power stage and ensure they
are properly modelled in the simulated environment.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The development of the AIT SGC was supported by the
Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology
(bmvit) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)
under the “Energy Research Programme 2015” in the
SPONGE project (FFG no. 848915) and the Austrian
Climate and Energy Fund (KLIEN) in the project “FACDS
Flexible AC Distribution Systems” (Project Number:
853555).
The participation of AIT within ISGAN-SIRFN is funded
in the frame of the IEA Research Cooperation program by
the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and
Technology under contract no. FFG 839566.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-mission
laboratory managed and operated by National Technology
and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC., a wholly owned
subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the U.S.
Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security
Administration under contract DE-NA-0003525.
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... 3. Development of inverter and power electronics functions: DER functions and device interoperability support large, traditional power systems and microgrids alike. These technologies can be evaluated prior to implementation using CHIL and RT simulation techniques [45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52]. ...
... This gave the team confidence that the equipment would perform appropriately with costly hardware. Later, the fully-built physical converter was found to have similar characteristics to the CHIL simulations for active power curtailment, frequency-watt, volt-watt, and under-voltage ride-through experiments [48,49]. ...
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P2004 -Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) Simulation Based Testing of Electric Power Apparatus and Controls
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